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NPA publishes comprehensive African swine fever briefing

30th Jan 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has published a comprehensive new briefing on African swine fever (ASF), covering everything from the history of the virus and how it is spread to the possible routes of infection in the UK.

ASF dead pigsThe briefing put together by chief executive Zoe Davies explains how the virus has spread across much of Europe since 2011, including to Belgium in September 2018. It has also spread right across China.

You can view the briefing here

It outlines how the virus is spread, including direct with infected pigs, faeces or body fluids, indirect contact via equipment, vehicles or people who work with pigs moving between pig farms with ineffective biosecurity and pigs eating contaminated pigmeat or meat products. The virus can survive for long periods outside of a living animal, including for 11 days in faeces at room temperature and 1,000 days in frozen meat.

It sets out the current ASF situation in Europe and beyond and highlights the biggest threats in terms of the virus reaching the UK, the biggest one being the import of contaminated pork products, including in consignments of pigmeat and personal imports by travellers.

Potential routes of infection for the domestic pig herd once the virus reaches the UK include the feral pig population, particularly in the Forest of Dean. “They are finding easy access to food sources, largely in domestic bins and as such could easily come into contact with discarded contaminated meat,” the briefing notes.

It also highlights the risk of outdoor pigs becoming exposed to meat discarded by the public on nearby paths and roads and smallholders who often do not understand the risk of feeding kitchen scraps to their pigs or the fact that this activity is illegal. The high number of Eastern European workers on pig farms represents another potential risk.

The briefing sets out the NPA’s position of various on position aspects of the situation:

  • Whilst NPA and other industry bodies have been working with Defra and APHA on a comprehensive communications programme aimed at tackling all of the perceived vulnerabilities listed above, the key area where we have made no progress is in stepping up border controls.
  • We will therefore continue to insist that UK Border Force takes this issue far more seriously than it has to date and increases the level of resource dedicated to intercepting illegal imports of potentially contaminated pork, particularly from high risk countries.
  • We would like to see much better visible communication to passengers and lorry drivers entering the UK via ports, airports and on Eurostar about the risk of the disease and the consequence of illegally importing pork products into the UK from affected areas and discarding them in areas where pigs can gain access.
  • A more coordinated and effective approach to management of wild boar populations is also urgently required. NPA believes it is vital that Defra revises the currently outdated 2008 Feral Wild Boar Action plan and takes an active role in helping to shape a UK strategy for feral wild boar which includes the need for culling to reduce population sizes to manageable levels.
  • NPA will continue to urge pig farmers to increase their biosecurity levels in order to limit the risk of theirown pigs becoming infected.